Traveling with families can be some of the fondest memories we make, however, it comes with a fair amount of work.
I've traveled to over 60 countries and over 40 US states to date and in all my years of traveling, if there’s one thing that was the hardest to defeat, it was definitely jet lag. It didn’t matter what time you told me it was, my body had override over it all. I spent many nights awake attempting to adjust to new countries, sometimes leaving before I ever adjusted.
** Our family secret: After a long travel day, we want to pass out the minute we get to a bed. If we arrive in the morning or early afternoon, we do a 1-2 hour nap max. But if we arrive in the evening, we muscle it out for an early bedtime.
So what can you do to facilitate traveling with little ones going up against the same difficulty? Try one (or all) of these approaches…
1.) JET LAG MATH
My general rule of thumb is 1 day for every hour of time difference between the new location and your local time. For example, Los Angeles is three hours behind New York, so when we travel there, I assume 3 days for the adjustment to happen. I try to shift an hour or so each day until the third day to have them fully adjusted. Arriving on a Monday would hopefully have us fully adjusted by Wednesday. This formula starts to get harder when you're dealing with 8-12 hours of a difference, but still holds true in how you may feel. I try to adjust two hours a day for each day in adjustment time for larger time differences, but sometimes you just have to submit to the crazy hours.
2.) FLY STRATEGICALLY
I am not a fan of red eye flights because if you don’t get to sleep for any reason, the arrival day is a brutal one. Additionally, children are generally better travelers and adjust to let lag better when they are well rested. So if you or your kids do not sleep well on planes, this will exacerbate the jet lag issue. If you know your child will and loves to sleep on planes, then red eye flights may be the perfect resolve. However, unless you're flying first class, it's tough for the parents to feel well rested sleeping in those seated positions. Take into account your arrival time and be strategic on the physical rest needed upon arrival.
3.) STAY ON LOCAL TIME
If you are traveling to locations within 3-5 hours of your home time, don’t adjust! Let them wake up whatever time their body feels good and adjust your days accordingly. Maybe you start your days earlier now, catch those sunrises! Or perhaps you’ll finally get to stay up late with them and explore the stars. Adjusting to new time zones are not a necessity unless you have strict scheduled events in your itinerary, like weddings or business meetings.
Melatonin supplements are a natural option to help the body adjust and get the rest our bodies need to function optimally. I have heard of many parents having good experiences using dramamine or benadryl as well, though I have no personal experience with any of these, so do your research. ;)
While jet lag may hit us hard no matter what precautions we do, one sure fire way to dissipate it’s attack is to stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help how the body feels the symptoms.
6.) ADJUST YOUR MEALS
Shifting the times when you eat helps your body adjust to a new schedule. Be as gentle with this adjustment as you would the sleep. Changing it by 1-2 hours is suggested. Making larger drastic changes can bring more frustration than adjustment.
6.) GO OUTSIDE
Nothing helps you acclimate to circadian rhythm more than getting in touch with the sun. Let them energize from the sun and exhaust outdoors before each nights rest and you’ll be beating jet lag before you know it!
7.) LIGHTS OUT WHEN THE MOON IS OUT
It is so tempting to turn on the lights at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning when we wake in the middle of the night, but this hinders our ability to stay in sleep mode. Keep the lights off or as dim as possible during night wakes and let the dark be the indicator to the body to rest.
Do you have any tip or tricks that have worked for time zone adjusting?
Share with us below!
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